Monolith of Phobos
The Claypool Lennon Delirium
2016 – ATO Records
I confess, I’m a huge fan of both these dudes. Les Claypool has been rocking hard since Primus ruled college radio back in the 90s. His solo stuff is a melodic patchwork of gnarly funk rock with a tinge of Frank Zappa and best served with a side of the recently deceased Bernie Worrell, showcased perfectly in the excellent record The Big Eyeball in the Sky from 2004.
Lennon has released two of my favorite records in the last ten years. 2006’s Friendly Fire saw Sean coming into his own after years dabbling with Cibo Matto and Yoko Ono. And his record Midnight Sun with The Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger is always in heavy rotation ’round these parts. And not just because of the edible Charlotte Kemp. The common ground between these two musical magpies may involve similar tastes in analog sounds, psychedelia, and a controlled use of mind altering substances.
Monolith of Phobos sounds like key members of the Beatles and Pink Floyd pressed record during a lost weekend. And yes, I say Beatles as a whole because Lennon doesn’t just sound like his dad, he’s something of an amalgam of the fab four in their entirety. He’s got the druggy genius of John, the melodic tendencies of Paul, the chops of George, and dammit if he doesn’t play drums just like Ringo. Put him in a petri dish with Claypool and the results are gonna foam over the sides, escape the lab and wreak havoc on the local diner.
These tracks tend towards muscular mid tempo rockers to downright sprawling Floydian excursions. “Mr. Wright,” for example, is typical Claypool, chronicling a creepy voyeur that “sets up little cameras because he likes to watch her dance” because it “puts a twitch into his pants.” Les told Rolling Stone recently that “My biggest writing inspirations are a cross between Bukowski and Dr. Seuss.” Yeah, it shows. Whereas tracks like “Ohmerica” and “Bubbles Burst” have more in common with Syd Barrett-era Floyd refracted through the lens of Sean’s famous father.
“Cricket and The Genie (Movement I, The Delirium)” plays with Sean’s childhood memories of meeting Michael Jackson’s famous monkey-friend Bubbles while on the set of 1988’s Moonwalker.
The best song title of the year goes to “Breath of a Salesman,” which wouldn’t be out of place on a Primus record. The bass manages to bubble and crunch at the same time, and the guitars are drenched in some serious seventies wah. Claypool seems to sum up the exasperated aughts with the line “Hey you, I don’t want you to come talk to me, ponder my life philosophy, just leave me alone.”
The record ends with the amorphous “There’s No Underwear in Space” and hopefully with the aforementioned twitch in your pants.
The duo is on tour now where you may hear them tearing apart the Beatles gem “Tomorrow Never Knows.”
Janita – Three Songs She’d Love to Have Written
Janita’s newest album Here Be Dragons is another in a progression of finely crafted hymns for the empowered. Whether by love, as in the silky “I Do,” or by subverting expectations, in the Beatlesesque “Not What You’re Used To,” Janita draws on lessons learned during a positively unique career that spans decades and continents. We caught up with Janita on the heels of her latest single “When It’s All Up To You” to find out three songs she’d love to have written.
Elliott Smith — “L.A.”
This is one of my favorite songs by Elliott Smith. I listened to the full album Figure 8 a lot while I was writing the songs on my new album, and it was a huge influence on me both melodically and lyrically. This song in particular has also informed some of the production choices we made later, like the heavier guitars you hear on my song “Not What You’re Used To.”
“L.A.” is incredibly melodic, but there’s an elusive, haunting quality to it. It feels like you’re always trying to reach it, catch up to it somehow. The backing vocals accentuate that feeling. In my mind, the song paints such a vivid picture of the ephemeral, fickle nature of L.A., and the similarly transient nature of the main character. Elliott Smith himself? I don’t know exactly how he does (did) it, but I’m certainly in awe of it.
Radiohead — “There There”
So hypnotic. So badass. Could the production possibly be any cooler? The melody is intricate and beautiful, and I can relate to the lyric from every which angle: as the singer, as the one being sung to, and whether in love relationships, friendships, or with total strangers. The subject matter simply comes up in life in so many ways all the time… I recently tried to express similar notions as I was writing a song, only to remember that it was already done here perfectly. Goddammit.
Punch Brothers — “Julep”
This song is simply magical to me. It’s made me bawl my eyes out at a Punch Brothers concert two separate times. It’s like that viral video that was circulating some years ago of a baby moved to tears when her mom sings a sad tune. I’m that baby when it comes to this song. It simply hits some sort of primal button in me and keeps pressing it until the very end.
While you’re at it, check out Janita’s video for “Digging in the Dirt,” a funky and faithful rendition of the Peter Gabriel classic.
New Music – Bachelor
Jay Som’s Melina Duterte and Palehound’s Ellen Kempner join forces as Bachelor – a musical powerhouse whose new record Doomin’ Sun drops May 28th on Polyvinyl.
Kemper and Duterter recorded the album during two weeks of mutual appreciation in California. Three visceral singles have been released in the lead-up, including the Pixies-flavored “Stay in the Car” and the sprawling “Anything At All.”
Bachelor has also announced the Doomin’ Sun Fest, a one-day livestream featuring Tegan & Sara, Courtney Barnett, Adrianne Lenker, Jeff Tweedy, Japanese Breakfast, Julien Baker, and more.
Self-Serving Interview with Electronic Device Does Little to Advance Musician’s Career
Two men that look suspiciously alike meet outside a fictitious Brooklyn hot-spot – six feet apart.
MC Krispy E: Very nice to meet you. (squints) Have we met before?
Electronic Device: Maybe?
MC Krispy E: Is the rest of the band joining us?
Electronic Device: (pause) I am the rest of the band.
MC Krispy E: You are Electronic Device? What’s that about?
Electronic Device: Uhm, yeah, it’s like a pen name. You know what that is, right?
MC Krispy E: I have some idea.
Electronic Device: It was actually the name of one of my dad’s companies back in the day before…
MC Krispy E: (looking at his watch) Wonderful. So… it says here you have a new single called “All Things Come to an End” inspired by the death of your brother.
Electronic Device: Yeah, after my brother died I recorded songs as a form of therapy in his old bedroom in Staten Island.
MC Krispy E: And now I read that you have cancer. Am I supposed to feel extra sorry for you?
Electronic Device: Uhm…
MC Krispy E: It sounds like this album is going to be super depressing.
Electronic Device: It’s not, I swear. I was looking for some happiness while recording these songs, there’s not much of an agenda beyond that.
Electronic Device: I wasn’t really thinking about influences while recording, but listening back I hear some Concrete Blonde, some Cracker.
MC Krispy: So bands no one is interested in?
Electronic Device: What the hell, man?
MC Krispy: Sorry, it’s almost like I can’t help it. What’s the single about?
Electronic Device: I hate saying what a song is about because everything is up for interpretation.
MC Krispy E: Humor us.
Electronic Device: I can say that “All Things Come to an End” has multiple narrators, some of which are unreliable.
MC Krispy E: (stares)
Electronic Device: And that one day I was at my Dad’s house and when I turned the corner into the hallway my Dad thought I was my brother for a moment, which was super sad because of course I couldn’t be.
MC Krispy E: And then you wrote a whole song about that.
Electronic Device: I guess so. When you put it that way…
MC Krispy E: (yawning) Tell us when the single come out.
Electronic Device: The single is out now. The album comes out in 2021.
MC Krispy E: Well, good for you. And good luck with that cancer thing.
Electronic Device: Yeah, you too.
MC Krispy E: Thanks. What?